Plants + Science = Meat!

Daniel Fraga
August 21st 2017

What if you could have the taste of a juicy, sizzling burger without the destructive impact of using animals for meat? That is what Impossible Foods wants to do with its new burger.

Plant Meat

"Today, we rely on cows to turn plants into meat. There has to be a better way", says the CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown. And the Impossible Burger is just that. A hamburger for meat lovers, but entirely created from plants. The company's team of scientists have come up with an ingenious way to transform plants into tasty meat without the use of animals in the process.

It all comes down to a molecule called heme, which is what gives meat its particular taste. It is a component of hemoglobin, a protein that exists in the red blood cells of all vertebrates. Its function is to transport oxygen through the body. By fermenting a genetically modified form of yeast, they have produced a heme protein that is naturally found in plants, called soy leghemoglobin. According to Brown, "the heme in the Impossible Burger is atom-for-atom identical to the heme found in meat, fish, plants and other foods". By coming up with a way to create heme out of plants, the team at Impossible Foods was able to make a burger that tastes and bleeds like real meat. 

What is the thing that tastes like meat, looks like meat and smells like meat? Not meat, it's heme!

Meaty Business

The company's work has not gone unnoticed. Impossible Foods seem to be on an upwards trajectory since the first time we covered them on our blog back in 2014. They became the best funded alternative-protein startup to date. Just recently they raised 75 million dollars in Series E funding, mainly from from Singapore state fund Temasek. Michael Buchanan, their head of strategy, said: “I’ve had a few of their burgers, and even as a very long standing meat-lover, I can tell you they taste really good!”. Among the ranks of investors in this company we can find the Open Philanthropy Project, Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and Horizons Ventures

Furthermore, Impossible Foods has recently received a patent for the use of soy leghemoglobin in plant-based meat. They claim to have about 100 more pending patents. Seems like we can expect further innovation in the food industry in the next years.

Why is this important?

Impossible Foods is disrupting the status quo and helping the world at the same time. This startup's success could pioneer a future in which humanity's relationship with meat will drastically change.

One of the greatest threats the world faces today is the destructive impact that meat production has on the environment. Large-scale meat production affects climate, wildlife, biodiversity and even political stability. Not to mention the difficult ethical issues related to animal slaughter. As a result, the idea of producing meat out of plants - and turning it into a profitable business - is generating a lot of interest. It represents a credible solution to the great web of problems caused by animal-based meat production.

Will large scale beef farming operations, like this one, become a vision of the past?

Eating just one Impossible Burger instead of a regular beef burger saves the water equivalent of a ten-minute shower, 18 driving miles worth of greenhouse gases, and 75 square feet of land. All this while providing people with a delicious burger that many high-end chefs, such as David Chang or Brad Farmerie, have begun to adopt in their restaurants.

Ultimately, this appetizing new burger is a glimpse into a future where, hopefully, we won't have to cause such tremendous animal suffering in order to satisfy our appetite for meat.

Sources: AG Funder NewsImpossible Foods. Image: Impossible Foods

 

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Should men be able to give birth to children?


Lisa Mandemaker: Using an artificial womb could lead to more equality between sexes, but also between different family layouts. If men would be able to give birth to children, it would maybe be easier for male same-sex couples to have a child together.

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